How Confidence Builds Credibility, and Lack of Action Erodes Trust

Confidence_uphill battle

It is no secret that people are getting increasingly skeptical around marketing messages, that they report hating the interruptive nature of advertising, and the sneaky ways companies manage to get around the boundaries they set.

We have been reading the headlines in articles and posts for years. If you start counting from the first publication of The Cluetrain Manifesto#, at least 12 long years. The conversation was possible because of the increase in use of the world wide web#, the system that sits on top of the Internet:

A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed.

As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies.

Yet for years most companies continued to overlook the clues that something important was happening.

Many organizations resisted even getting a web presence — several hundreds “what do I need a web site for?” discussions later, and now everyone nods up and down when someone states technology is a vital link to customers.

Of course, what has changed is that Amazon created an unfair advantage by going all in online first. It is worth asking again: is your business ready for "'Net Natives"? Amazon is.

Because the company did not stop at a well functioning Web site, it rolled out a reader to help us (re)Kindle book reading. In the last couple of years, Amazon has been on Fire, creating a new retail experience, and then by letting customers compare prices at the point of sale.

Locating its warehouses in strategic areas for delivering faster and to physical boxes to boot. Throw in there the acquisition of Zappos to reinforce its focus on customer service. Again, nobody saw any of it coming, despite the conversations around how service was (also) content.

The online retail giant also makes a good example of content strategy to keep business promises. Look, Amazon continues to make no money, says the media. According to VC Fred Wilson, my go-to resource when it comes to all things digital + investment, that means the company is working on profitless prosperity:

[…] it is making huge investments in warehouses and logistics to be able to continue to grow its retailing business and it is making similarly large investments in data centers to be able to continue to grow its AWS business.

The very same media companies that continue to report# on the world's crack habit of just looking at growth as a one-stop measurement of all things good.

The very same media companies that had a hard time with thinking about content as a product in digital formats, despite pockets of evidence that new media is capable of growing and retaining a passionate legion of
readers, so passionate in fact that they are worthy of the term community, like in the case of Condé Nast buying Ars Technica.

Relationship between confidence and progress

Bezos, Buffett, Branson (three is a trend, isn't that what they say?) ooze with confidence. Now, it is my experience that success breeds more success, and not the other way around.

However, I would wager these business people, and many more like Mayer and Ahrendts#, got into their trade with plenty of confidence at the onset. The relationship between confidence and progress is strong, and the outcome is credibility.

Confidence is defined as a feeling of self-assurance arising from one's appreciation of one's own abilities or qualities, including belief that undertakings are possible. How does one build confidence? By constantly closing the gap between promises made and promises kept. Simple, not easy.

To keep  on the straight and narrow with terminology. We have another term reserved for those who are not looking to close that gap — it's arrogance, a sense of self-importance, egotism, and hubris.

As Ken Doctor reports, outragious confidence is now enveloping the media world:

In the past several weeks, we’ve seen new newspaper owners proudly raising the flags of their new enterprises, speaking grandly of their futures and spouting that most legacy of commodities: optimism for the future.

Jeff Bezos toured his new Post before closing the sale and wowed a group of very professional skeptics.

Orange County Register president Eric Spitz, part of Aaron Kushner’s ownership group, gave a long interview extolling growth and investment.

Then John Henry penned an open letter to the good citizens of Boston and beyond, laying out in fine detail why he bought The Boston Globe.

Optimism is contagious. I even had the cheek to suggest what Jeff Bezoz should do with The Washington Post, after ages of not writing about media. Clicks and sensationalism seemed to have infected all kinds of media, with a rare few exceptions trying new sustainable revenue models.

Lack of action and the erosion of trust

It was citizen outrage over multiple leaks in recent years — wikileaks, Snowden leaks, etc. — that served as a bit of a kick in the digital bits of media companies.

When the gap between what an entity says and what it does becomes so obvious that everyone is now looking at the sinkhole, people get down to doing their jobs and in the case of media, that is the business of reporting from a skeptical stance.

Again, a lack of action by the groups whose job is to work on the issues that affect citizens together and make decisions to enforce policy based on an agreed upon set of laws, etc. is prompting other groups within the chain of accountability to act#:

Many lawmakers say that news reports of widespread surveillance by the National Security Agency have led to more support for the bills among constituents. And in some cases, the state lawmakers say, they have felt compelled to act because of the stalemate in Washington on legislation to strengthen privacy laws.


More than a year ago, the White House proposed a consumer privacy bill of rights, but Congress has not yet taken on the legislation. And a proposed update to the 27-year-old Electronic Communications Privacy Act has stalled. The proposal would require law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant, based on probable cause, before they could read through emails.

When an economy relies heavily on digital for commerce, communications, and (a sense of, building) community, the prospect of transmissions not being safe#, the uncertainty of what else may be revealed next, as well as the unknown of when/if action will be taken all contribute to doubt, and the erosion of trust.

Something important is happening. The gap between promises made and promises kept needs attention, and positive action.

In the current predicament, confidence is starting to look a lot like an uphill battle. With all kinds of important consequences to relationships and culture.



Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover
the value of promises and its effects on relationships and
. She is also frequent speaker at
conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.

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